Belgium: Filthy migrant squat is producing diseases not seen in Europe for years

By Dénes Albert
4 Min Read

Belgian doctors are raising the alarm after encountering diseases they have never seen before in the country appearing in a migrant squat outside of Brussels.

Since last October, nearly 1,000 asylum seekers have lived in squalid conditions after illegally occupying a former Federal Ministry of Finance building in Schaerbeek, which is a suburb of Brussels. Residents in the area have complained about the squat for some time, saying the immigrants are constantly fighting with one another, raising concerns about public safety.

However, due to a lack of hygiene, professional cleaning, and unsanitary conditions, disease is also now running rampant in the building.

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Doctors of the NGO Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) were reportedly shocked to find diphtheria in patients who lived in the building. Thanks to vaccination, the disease was thought to have been eradicated from Europe years ago, but according to Belgian newspaper 7sur7, a number of homeless migrants have now brought it back to Belgium.

“Belgian doctors have never seen this disease in their lives,” David Vogel, MSF project manager, told La Libre. He also warns about cases of tuberculosis, “a disease that was present in Belgium in the last century when people heated with coal and did not ventilate.”

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Other diseases are also present, including scabies and tuberculosis, with scabies spreading likely due to the lack of basic hygiene. The disease, which is an infestation of the skin with the human itch mite, is difficult to treat in such conditions. Even if the doctors treat the rash, the migrants are headed back to a building infested with the mites, which means outbreaks will likely continue, said MSF’s David Vogel.

A previous article detailed the extreme problems facing the residents near the building.

“We live in uncertainty every day. Every day, there are fights and police interventions, and fires are regularly lit in the squat,” said a local resident. “In addition, as residents, we suffer a lot from nighttime noise,” he adds.

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In fact, some incidents at the migrant squat have made national headlines in Belgium, such as when a half-naked resident ranted and screamed while pacing outside on the seventh-story ledge of the building. A video of the incident can be seen on television 7sur7’s website.

“Sunday morning, the situation was such that a man wanted to throw himself out of the window of the seventh floor of the squat,” he said.

The paper describes how there have also been attacks on people, including migrants hurling pieces of glass and iron bars at residents. Despite reports to police, they have been unable to maintain public safety.

“Once again, the police had to intervene after the occupants of the squat threw pieces of glass, iron bars, and trash at passers-by. We feel helpless and totally forgotten and ignored by the authorities”.

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